How To Organize A Small Pantry

A well organized and clean pantry is essential to a hard working kitchen. With these tips, you’ll have no more wasted space. Here are many ideas to organize your small pantry or cabinet.

I think we all dream of a beautifully orchestrated walk-in pantry. One with lots of shelves and drawers. Just ready for us to waltz in and pick out the perfect ingredients for dinner. A place where foods are easily stored when you return home from the grocery store.

Unfortunately, walk-in pantries are a recent innovation. Most homes built prior to this century just didn’t take into account the need for a designated food storage space. We are left with making do with existing cabinets to use for a pantry.

clear bins holding condiments and snack in a pantry pullout shelf.

Not to worry. There are lots of modern organizational tools to make the most of your dedicated pantry space. Whether it be a cabinet, a dedicated pantry or a made over closet. You can organize a small kitchen without a pantry.

Organizing a small kitchen without a pantry can be difficult but not impossible. Use the following organizing solutions to define your pantry. Whether you use a freestanding cabinet or clear space in your kitchen cabinets, you can have a pantry in a small kitchen.

Pullout Pantry Organization Ideas

A pantry shelf full of food in bins.

When we remodeled our kitchen, I desperately wanted a pantry cabinet. Fortunately, the cabinets we chose had an option for a cabinet with pullout shelves.

These are tall cabinets with stationary shelving on the top and slide out shelves on the bottom. I love them.

The only problem was how to organize those pullout shelves so nothing would slide around.

Use Clear Bins To Stabilize And Separate

Two clear bins on a kitchen counter.

The solution was to section the shelving out with clear bins. I carefully measured and figured out that one pullout shelf would hold five bins that were six by nine and a half inches. Or I could use three bins that were eight and a half by nine and a half inches with some room to spare.

I decided to use a combination of the two sizes. I have smaller bins in the back and larger in the front.

This has been a perfect solution. I can designate each bin to contain certain foods. Such as one bin holds packaged snacks and another has condiments. Then I also have one that has all the adds on for salads. I can change these out as our needs change.

Bin holding packages of food on a counter.

An organized pantry is key for successful meal planning. You need to see what you have to plan your meals for the coming week.

Declutter Your Pantry Before You Begin To Organize

Before you begin any organizing project, you need to know how you want the space to function. What is the final outcome? How are people going to use the space?

If your pantry is only for food storage, then you can’t store anything else there. Other items will have to find a different space. It may be time for some kitchen decluttering so that you don’t store non food items in your pantry.

Is it important for you to see all your food products? Or is it okay if you have to pull cans or packages out of the way to find them?

Have a plan for ever type of item in your pantry. This will ensure you use your space wisely. You may want to sketch out on a piece of paper how you want your pantry to look. Be sure to measure your space, so you are using every bit of space. Both horizontal and vertical.

Take your plan with you when you are shopping for organizing solutions.

A place for everything and everything in it’s place. This will ensure that your pantry stays neat and organized.

Tips On How To Organize Your Pantry

The goal is to make the most of your dedicated pantry space. But how? Luckily, there are several inexpensive solutions to organize a pantry.

These tips will help you to maximize your space.

Now that you have your pantry organized, you may need to tweak parts of it. That is fine. Any organizing project is a work in progress.

Keep like items together.

Keeping like items together is first and foremost to utilizing your pantry space. For instance, all canned goods should be stored together.

Then to further organize this, keep all the same foods together. For example, group all beans together, all soups together, all sauces etc. These should be stored in one spot. Not only does this make it easier to grab ingredients for dinner but will also assist with putting together your grocery list.

Purchase a can riser so that cans are not all on the same level. This is especially helpful if you have deep shelves. By using a step system, each row of cans will be seen. This is much better than having to lift each can up to see what it is. These risers are fairly inexpensive and can be found at most discount stores.


turntable filled with spice bottles.

By putting a lazy Susan or turntable on a shelf can make your pantry items more accessible.

I especially like to put spice bottles and oils on one. When I need a particular spice, I can spin the turntable to find the bottle. This saves time which is essential when preparing a meal.

To be most efficient, clear cabinet space near your stove to store your spices. This will save time if your pantry is located far from your cooking area.

In my post about organizing kitchen cabinets, I show how I use a very large turntable for my deep corner cabinet. This idea could be used in a pantry space as well.

You can find budget friendly turntables at Wal Mart and places like Marshall’s or HomeGoods.

Bins And Baskets

Clear Bin Filled With Snack Foods.

Storing loose packages like potato chips, rice mixes, and individually wrapped snacks take up a lot of space. They also don’t stand well on their own which means they can get lost in a cupboard. The solution is to store those types of items in a clear bin or pretty basket.

Take individually packages items out of their boxes and place in a clear bin. This will create a uniform look. Then you can quickly see how much you have left of something which is important when it comes to snacks.

By corralling loose packages, you control these items from spreading all over your pantry shelves.

This another item that is best purchased from Marshall’s or HomeGoods. They have a great selection at decent prices.

Clear Canisters

OXO containers labeled and full of pantry stable food.

Use clear containers for bulk items such as flour, sugar and rice. This way you eliminate the packaging and can actually see how you much you have.

Label your containers. This is very important when you have many foods that are the same color. The last thing you want to do is to add flour when you meant to add sugar.

Write the expirations dates on the containers. Using a marker, write this date on the back of the container. Or use a blank label to write the date. It’s helpful to know that you are working with fresh ingredients.

Place the directions on the back of the container. For example, pancake mix. Cut out the directions and tape onto the back. You will be glad you took the time to do this when someone wants to make pancakes. Do this for anything you need directions for.

Under Shelf Hanging Baskets

If you have limited shelf space, add an under shelf hanging basket.

You will gain additional space by adding an under shelf basket. With shelving, there’s a lot of empty vertical space. Take advantage of this. These baskets can hold a lot. Just be sure to store only like items in them. They can get messy.

Pantry Door Organizer

Pantry door organizer with shelves filled with food products.

The back of your pantry door can yield lots of storage space. I use a shelving system made especially for this purpose. The baskets are moveable so I can adjust what height of items I am storing. I love to store my bulk spices and food storage items. I have a food saver which I bulk buy bags for. This is the best place for me to store them.

Shelf Liners For Wire Shelving

Wire shelf lined in plastic with bags of flour and packages of food on it.

Wire shelf pantry organization can be challenging. If you have wire shelves, you know that stuff doesn’t stay upright. You have packages leaning and spilling due to the wire shelving. There isn’t an even surface. The solution is to line those shelves.

The least expensive way is plastic liners made just for this purpose. It comes in a roll and different widths. Be sure to measure the width of your shelves. These liners have cutouts to snap onto the wire shelves. This lets you secure the liner. No more falling packages!

Label Shelves

By labeling your shelves, this will help everyone keep your pantry in order. It will be easier to find foods and to put foods away. Everyone will know where things belong.

Prioritize Pantry Space

When deciding where to place food items, keep in mind how you will use the pantry.

If you have small children, you may want to dedicate a lower shelf that holds snack items.

Are you a baker? Then you might want to have a shelf that holds all of your baking supplies such as flours and sugars.

My Favorite Containers

My favorite pantry containers are the POP containers from OXO. They are pricey but they do the job well. They come in many sizes to fit what you need to store. I have had mine for many years and still love them. So much so, I keep adding to my collection.

They have air tight seals and newly designed lids. This particular container has indentions on the underside of the lid to add a brown sugar keeper. This helps to keep your brown sugar soft.

OXO container with brown sugar and lid being taken off.

Organize Your Pantry On A Budget

When organizing a pantry, you can spend a lot of money. It is easy to get caught up in pretty containers.

I know this too well. But if you shop around, you can get deals on containers and bins. I like to shop at Marshalls and HomeGoods for these. The price per container is always a few dollars less than other stores.

If you have a Costco membership, they always have a box of OXO containers with several sizes at a discounted price. This would make a good starter set.

As a budget friendly alternative to the OXO pop containers, Walmart has the Better Homes and Gardens brand that is comparable.

Review Your Pantry Yearly

Once organized doesn’t mean always organized. Once per year, make sure that your organization system still works for you.

Life changes. Needs change. Take the time to evaluate what is working and what isn’t. It will be easier now that you have a system in place. Tweak the parts that no longer suit your lifestyle. You won’t need to do an entire overhaul of your pantry again.

Keep this up and your pantry will stay organized and functional.

More Organization Tips

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